Butch Davis Under Fire
Butch Davis arrived on the scene in Cleveland as a head coach riding a white horse. With his past as the Miracle Man who brought the Miami Hurricanes back from near-death to the top of the polls (not to mention his stint as Defensive Coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion Cowboys), Davis was regarded as the right man to return the Browns to glory.
But just as quickly as his influence turned around a struggling Browns team in 2001, Davis now finds himself losing the respect of some within his team and some around the league who praised him such a short time ago.
The latest instance of what's seen as questionable Davis creativity is the demotion of wide receiver Kevin Johnson. While Johnson has not had a stellar season, he is far from being the cause of Cleveland's offensive problems. While the move may pay off for Davis eventually, right now, jaws are dropping around the league.
"Again, he (Davis) is making it very clear this is his team and he will go to no end to make sure that everybody knows it." One player told Bernie's Insiders. "Kevin Johnson is the least of the problems with this team, he has easily been the most consistent player in this locker room from day-one. The problem is he and coach do not get along."
"It's funny about Davis, he has this thing about talking up a player, building up a perception about the player, amd then pulling the rug out from under him. You guys in the media talk about the stuff that happens very rarely, you really only mention (Tim) Couch and now KJ, but he did this to Dave Wohlabaugh, Corey Fuller, Earl Holmes, and Jamir Miller. This is nothing new to this locker room, which is why many of these guys are going to bolt when they have the opportunity."
Running Out of Ego Room
The picture painted by the organization is that Policy and Davis are on the same page, virtually joined at the hip. While championships are a common goal, some subtle issues exist between with the two most powerful men in the organization. Could these issues ultimately end with one or the other departing Cleveland in the near future?
A long-time and respected league executive told Bernie's Insiders that he feels Davis and Carmen Policy won't be together for much longer:
"I was initially surprised when he (Davis) took the job in Cleveland. If it weren't for the late Al Lerner, Davis would not have gone to Cleveland."
"One of the biggest reasons this Browns team is in somewhat of a turmoil is due to the power Davis has been granted and the power and ego he and Policy share. There is not enough room in Cleveland for both of them."
"Well, there is a reason why Carmen Policy sold his 10-percent share of the team back to the Lerner's (Randy). There is absolutely no question that Policy and (Randy) Lerner are not nearly as close or trusting as Al (Lerner) and Policy were," the league executive continued.
"Does that have anything to do with the current situation in Cleveland or the selling of his shares? I don't know. But, Policy has had an interest in returning to California for quite awhile now and he is strongly rumored to have ties with the league or an ownership group, regarding a team in Los Angeles."
"As for Davis, I could see him ending up in Miami with the Dolphins. That is a natural fit, that is if he leaves Cleveland, which is far from a certainty. But, there has been some talk - with people that have been around the game and league a long time - that have mentioned Denny Green on numerous occasions as a guy Cleveland has their eye on."
Dennis Green? The former assistant coach in San Francisco, the former head coach at Stanford, and former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings? That Denny Green... the Bill Walsh disciple?
"I guess you can say that you can go home again, even if it is in Cleveland for Carmen Policy," the league executive concluded.
Is There Merit to the Whispers?
Policy's sale of his shares raises eyebrows, but there haven't been any issues created immediately by the sale, which reportedly provided Policy with several million dollars in profit. Policy will always be linked to football on the West Coast and some well-placed executives in and around the league believe he would like to return to the California area.
The story here is Policy has positioned himself for life after Cleveland with his financial transaction to Randy Lerner. For Policy, it is not a secret he is building a lavish home in the Napa Valley of California. He has been tied by sources to expressing an interest in a start-up team in California, and even is involved with a committee on placing a team in the Los Angeles market.
Stating Policy will soon bolt to West Coast would be premature, but the opportunity is now present after severing his ownership tie. Now that Policy is not an even a minority NFL owner, he may join another group, such as one attempting to establish a team in Los Angeles.
Despite undeniable egos and their nature as men of power and control, Policy and Butch Davis' relationship appears to have been harmonious to date - strikingly better than most observes would have thought when this marriage was announced. Policy and Davis appear comfortable with the other, although some casual observers inside the Berea training complex suggest there is an element of uncertainty centered at the top of the organization.
When word leaked out Policy had sold back his ownership in the team, some thought this was a clear sign he was leaving the organization. Later, it was added that this was due to a power-struggle between him and the man he brought in to right the ship, Butch Davis. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Policy, Davis, along with owner Randy Lerner spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the direction of the organization and what steps are necessary for this team to realize the promise and desire the late Al Lerner wanted for the team and fans of Cleveland Browns football.
Claims that Davis is on the hot-seat are just that: claims. It wasn't long ago that Davis was rumored to be receiving an extension from the team.
While some of his player personnel moves and matters of handling issues within the team environment have raised the ire of players, this is in no uncertain terms his team and he intends to fulfill his promise to Mr. Lerner: to bring a championship to Cleveland.
When a team struggles, controversy is always certain to follow, and rumors of coaching changes almost always arise. This column has learned Butch Davis' job is not in any immediate jeopardy, nor is the job of his right-hand man, Pete Garcia, the Browns' Vice President, Player Personnel and Player Development.
Just as interesting hearing the name Dennis Green in conjecture with the Browns, we must note his son, Jeremy Green, is the Browns' Director of Pro Personnel. The tie makes Green an easy choice to be named in reference to the Browns and one which has circulated amongst league circles.
Although the whispers, rumors, and locker room remarks are interesting, from What We've Been Told they aren't representative of any immediate actions. The Browns season is only halfway done, emotions rise and fall each week, and anything can still happen.